Ode to the Lindsay Wildlife Vet

Celebrating the Work of Incredible Caregivers

Posted on: May 23rd, 2020

Sheltering-in-Place Blog Entry #7

Wildlife veterinarians are a special breed. One moment they can be examining an enormous Bald Eagle, with a wingspan almost as wide as they are tall, and numerous and dangerous “sharp edges” (talons and beak), any of which could inflict a gnarly wound. The next moment, they may have their dexterity challenged by handling a baby hummingbird no larger than a small strawberry, but infinitely more delicate. And it gets more complicated if one broadens the scope and looks at vets that work with elephants, rhinos, and lions in Africa or at a zoo. The range of patients that a Lindsay veterinarian has to become proficient in examining, diagnosing and healing is mind-boggling. Imagine that our own Lindsay vets have to wear magnifying lenses to stitch the wounds on a little western fence lizard caused by an over-sporting cat but also have to deal with injured skunks, angry raptors, and delicate baby finches.

Lead Veterinarian Dr. Krystal Woo does her rounds at the Lindsay Wildlife Experience every week, examining and analyzing a menagerie of wildlife species. She seamlessly navigates between Topaz, our majestic Golden Eagle, to Penelope, the cute and wobbly North American porcupine, over to Dandelion, our desert tortoise, to the soft-skinned and delicate Zeus, our California kingsnake. Some days she dedicates her time to our aging raptors, like the fantastic Shadow, our Great Gray Owl, and Houston, our Barred owl, or Bubo, our Great Horned Owl (among other owls and raptors). Her examinations take her through the breadth of biodiversity represented in our small Animal Encounters zoo—over 70 individual organisms representing more than three dozen species, each individual and species with unique medical histories, physiology, and anatomy.

I feel enormous admiration for Dr. Woo and the other veterinarians who support our wildlife hospital. For many people, it is hard to imagine what it takes to care for a little lizard, or a finch, or a snake. Our emotional attachment to certain species of wildlife is tenuous at best. But all of our vets give each animal equal love, care, and dedication no matter their relative position in the biased scale of values humans give to wildlife—from adoration and respect for a Bald Eagle to fear of a snake or disgust about a “slimy” salamander.

The list of wildlife veterinarians that work or have worked or volunteered at Lindsay is long and impressive. When I started as Executive Director, I met Dr. Allison Daugherty, then Lead Vet for the hospital, who worked side-by-side with Dr. Woo in caring for hospital patients and our animal ambassadors. Dr. Jamie Peyton is the chief of Integrative Medicine Service at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and is also a member of Lindsay’s Board of Directors. She carries out groundbreaking research at Lindsay in the treatment of burns and other large wounds in wildlife using tilapia skins as dressings. Dr. Kathy Hamilton, Dr. Nancy Anderson, and Dr. Lana Krol donate their time and skills to support the hospital. Dr. Katie Roehl divides her time at Lindsay with her work at other facilities. Before them, Dr. Guthrum Purdin directed the hospital for a few years, preceded by Dr. Anneke Moresco, Dr. Justine Ma, and others.

Since the 1970s, Lindsay’s hospital, the first of its kind in the US, has trained and hosted many extraordinary wildlife veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and wildlife rehabilitators. The number of patients they have collectively treated and cared for is in the hundreds of thousands, representing an unfathomable number of hours of detailed, loving, and skillful work. We want to celebrate this week their work, their empathy for nonhuman life, and their search for understanding animal pain and how to alleviate it. I admire their boundless compassion for all living creatures and identify with the enormous challenge of helping society understand the plight of our wildlife and how together we can give these injured or orphaned animals a second chance at a healthy and free life.

Thank you, wildlife vets, for the incredible and often behind-the-scenes and unappreciated work you do. 

Carlos de la Rosa

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